Lost in America

Christina Gomez

Photo by Deidre Pike

There’s no safety net for Christina Gomez, 22, who’s about six months pregnant with twins and living on the Truckee River, not far from downtown. Her 21-year-old husband’s been working for a local temporary job placement agency. He’s lucky to bring home $40 a day, Gomez says, and they’re trying to save up for bus tickets to Arizona. Gomez says she was born in Santa Rosa, Calif., but she can’t drum up a birth certificate to prove it—or to get an identification card that would help her qualify for help from local social service or charitable agencies. Reno doesn’t have a shelter for women and children, and though a few local agencies offer some emergency housing for women, Gomez says she’s tried them all, and none will take her. About a dozen homeless individuals, men and women, were curled up sleeping Tuesday afternoon at the west end of Wingfield Park. Gomez tells me that she divides her time between the Greyhound bus station and the park bench where I saw her playing cards.

How’d you end up in Reno?

We got stranded here. We came here with a couple of friends, and they bounced on us.

Did you come on a vacation?

No, our friends were like, ‘I know a lot about Reno. There’s a lot of help for the homeless.’ A friend paid for our ticket to come here, but we found out there ain’t nothing for the homeless. We asked [our friends], ‘When are the meal times?’ And they didn’t know. They didn’t know nothing about Reno.

Are you looking for work?

My husband is working for [a temporary job agency], but they don’t pay a whole lot. And I’m pregnant with twins.

Really. Have you seen a doctor?

Yeah, they’re healthy, they’re fine. I’m losing weight, but the twins are fine.

You plan on leaving Reno before they’re born?

We’re hoping to get to Arizona. If we had relatives who were still alive, [the Reno Police Department] could call them, and they’d say that, yeah, we have a place to stay, then [the Reno police] would pay for our ticket to go down there. But we don’t, so we have to come up with the money ourselves.

How much have you saved so far?

Nothing, really. After we feed me and the [unborn] kids, it’s kind of hard.

Have you gotten any help?

This lady came up to me in the middle of the night when I was waiting for my husband to get back from work. She gave me this [shows me a silver dolphin ring] and said, “It ain’t much.” She said she got it in Hawaii. She named the dolphin Keanu after Keanu Reeves. It’s white gold.

Are you going to pawn it?

No, I can’t do that. I love dolphins. The pawn shop would probably only give me $20 for it. But I’m thinking about it. [The lady] also gave me a bowl of food, ravioli with chicken and rice in it. She’s a nice person.